Sandown betting tips: Our Merlin and Rock Gone among Saturday shouts

Sandown betting tips for January 5 from Horsebetting.com. Champion Hurdle hope laurina look in a totally different league to her rivals and impossible to oppose in the Listed 2m 4f Unibet Mares’ hurdle, so is the NAP of the seven-race card. Rock Gone is out next best punt in the veterans’ handicap chase following a promising return to action when runner-up over course and distance. Our Merlin, meanwhile, looks capable of going well in the closing 2m handicap hurdle and appeals each-way after winning last time out. Find out more about these horses in our in-depth preview with Sandown betting tips for January 5 below.

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Odds
1/5
NAP
Laurina
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Odds
7/1
NB
Rock Gone
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Odds
9/2
E/W
Our Merlin
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Laurina has Mares’ Hurdle at her mercy

Laurina looks a cut above her rivals and impossible to oppose as she makes her eagerly awaited return to action in the Listed 2m 4f Unibet Mares’ Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday (13:50). This six-year-old French recruit is unbeaten in four starts over the obstacles since joining top Irish trainer Willie Mullins and currently a top-price 5/1 second-favourite for the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

After winning unextended by 15 lengths at Tramore, she had no difficulty following-up in a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse when toying with her 10 rivals to score easily by 11 lengths. Laurina was then sent off the 4/7 favourite for the Grade 2 Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and her backers never had an anxious moment.

She cruised effortlessly into contention between the final two flights after being held-up in the hands of a confident Paul Townend. Despite not being fluent at the last, Laurina pulled clear without her rider having to move a muscle to slam Cap Soleil by 18 lengths.

Devastating in Dawn Run

It was an awesome performance which oozed class and the daughter of Spanish Moon went on to round off the campaign with a similar facile victory in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse when beating Lackaneen Leader by 8 1/2 lengths.

Laurina clearly has a huge engine and the potential to go right to the very top over hurdles. With the Champion Hurdle looking wide-open following the defeat of reigning dual champion Buveur D’Air in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, connections will surely be keen to take on the boys in the big one in two months’ time rather than race against her own sex if things go to plan.

An official rating of 152 gives her 18lb and upwards in hand on her rivals, so granted a clear round this looks a penalty kick for Laurina. She is fully expected to land the spoils with the minimum of fuss and that’s why we could not oppose and make her the standout bet. The improving Sensulano looks the obvious one to chase her home for the forecast, and that is recommended in our Sandown betting tips for January 5.

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Rock Gone the one to be on in Veterans’ Chase

Rock Gone shaped really well when runner-up on seasonal reappearance, so looks decent value to go one better and land the spoils in the richest race on the card, the 3m Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase (15:00). Trained by Dr Richard Newland, this 11-year-old has only had six starts over fences – winning once and twice making the frame.

The success came in a novice chase at Wetherby two years ago where he showed a game attitude to beat Actinpieces by a neck off an official rating of 135. Rock Gone went on to run a blinder at the Cheltenham Festival two starts later when seventh of 24 to subsequent Grade 1 winner Road To Respect in a hot Grade 3 handicap off a mark of 136.

Rock Gone also ran very well when a 4 1/2 lengths second of 16 to Go Conquer in the same grade at Ascot, again off 136, and is now able to race off 1lb lower. His current rating of 135 gives him major claims from a handicapping perspective on the pick of his form, while his return to action when second of 11 to Loose Chips over course and distance in November was full of promise.

The son of Winged Love made a couple of costly errors before weakening late on to be beaten 11 lengths and now meets the winner, who had the benefit of a previous outing, on 8lb better terms. That should be enough to see Rock Gone gain revenge, so with underfoot conditions ideal there is nothing not to like about his chances in this. Hence he rates the next best bet in our Sandown betting tips for January 5.

Our Merlin an each-way play in finale

Our Merlin returned to form when scoring last time out and, despite an 8lb rise in the weights, looks weighted to go well in his follow-up bid in the 2m 32red.com Handicap Hurdle that brings proceedings to a close (15:25). This Robert Walford trained seven-year-old progressed throughout last season and rattled up a quick fire hat-trick 13 months ago.

In the last of those successes at Taunton, he cruised effortlessly clear to slam Mr Lando by 15 lengths. Our Merlin got a massive hike in the weights after that facile victory, but ran really well of his revised rating of 123 when a 3 1/4 lengths second of 10 to the very smart Call Me Lord in this contest.

He backed that up with a solid 2 3/4 lengths third of 11 to Remiluc in a similar grade affair at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day last January off 127, and now races off 128 having made all and dug deep to beat Snapdragon Fire by 1 1/4 lengths at Wincanton last month.

That was a most taking display and one which suggested there was better to come from this likeable type. Stan Sheppard, who partnered him that day, is also once again in the saddle and takes off a handy 3lb with his claim.

Our Merlin should be more than capable of winning races off his current mark, has his ideal underfoot conditions and a 33 per cent strike rate over the minimum trip of this. Everything looks in place for a big run, so that’s why he had to be the each-way punt and thus completes our Sandown betting tips for January 5.

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